He held my hand throughout the C-section and when the first cry sounded, he sought out my eyes before we both turned toward our daughter, wrinkled and smeared as the nurse presented her to us. I let go of Dante’s hand. “Go to our daughter. Go.” He seemed reluctant to leave my side but after he’d brushed a kiss against my forehead, he straightened and headed toward the end of the operating table. Dante didn’t even twitch at the amount of blood, but I hadn’t expected him to. If the nurses and doctors were surprised by his calm, they hid it, or maybe they believed the rumors about Dante: that he was a high-ranking mafia boss. Of course, nobody would ever confirm these suspicions. After a few moments, the nurse handed him our daughter, wrapped in a blanket. She looked tiny in Dante’s arm as he peered down at her with the softest expression I’d ever seen. There was something fierce there too, and it replaced the gentleness when he glanced up to find the nurses and doctors watching him. I knew our daughter would be safe.
Dante’s eyes spoke of protectiveness, of pure determination to destroy anything and anyone that meant her harm. Turning his gaze away from the hospital staff, Dante approached me with our daughter and lowered himself to the chair beside my head so he could show me our little girl. I knew the doctor would have to take her away soon. She’d have to spend some time in the incubator before she could come home with us. “She’s so beautiful,” I whispered. I didn’t even care that the doctors were busy stitching me back together, or that Dante and I weren’t alone.
“She is, just like you,” Dante said quietly. I ran a finger over her cheek. She blinked at me with her glassy eyes. Her hair was blond like Dante’s, albeit still matted. She was tiny and I wanted nothing more than to protect her.
“Anna,” I said, for the first time calling her by the name Dante and I had chosen only days before. “Your dad will always love you and keep you safe.”
Dante kissed Anna’s, then my forehead. “You and Anna, both.”
I searched his eyes and the tears I’d successfully held back up till that point finally found their way out.EPILOGUEI lowered myself into the hot water in our bathtub with a sigh. Anna had finally fallen asleep in her crib and Gaby would spend the night with her in the nursery to make sure she was alright. Dante had a meeting with my father down in the office. Though I suspected the sudden increase in short meetings was the result of my father’s eagerness to see Anna as often as possible. He definitely didn’t share Fiore Cavallaro’s disappointment over having gotten a granddaughter instead of a grandson. It had been only five weeks since I’d given birth to our daughter and I could already hardly imagine how it had been before her. But tonight I needed some time for me…and Dante. Luckily, Anna had hit a phase of long stretches of uninterrupted sleep. She sometimes slept for up to five hours without a hitch.
I leaned back in the tub and closed my eyes, relaxing for the first time today. My fingers itched to slip between my legs to alleviate the tension there, but I didn’t. It had been months since Dante and I had been intimate and tonight I wanted that to change. Dante had been nothing but patient but I didn’t miss that he always took a long time in the shower. I didn’t have to guess what he was doing. Now that my scar had healed I couldn’t wait to be with him again. Only this time it would be different. For the first time, I’d know he loved me while he’d make love to me, even if he’d never said the words aloud. The way he looked at me and Anna was worth more than all the spoken declarations of love in the world.
“Val?” Dante called as I heard him enter the bedroom and a moment later the bathroom. His eyes lingered on the swell of my breasts, mostly covered by bubbles. He looked devilishly handsome in his dark gray vest and pants. The top two buttons of his white shirt were open and the sleeves were rolled up, revealing lean muscle. “I checked on Anna. She’s asleep. Gaby is singing to her.”
“That’s great,” I said with a smile. Like Dante had suggested, we’d moved the nursery to the room he’d shared with his first wife a long time ago. Considering that it was three doors down from our bedroom, I wouldn’t have to worry that Gaby might hear us. Dante’s eyes were practically transparent with lust but he just stood in the doorway. His self-control was marvelous, and a bit frustrating.
“You look tired,” he said carefully. “Do you want to get some rest?” His body said something very different. The growing bulge in his pants was hard to miss.
I shook my head with a smile and straightened, letting water and bubbles trail down my naked body as I stood before Dante. His gaze left a scorching trail on my skin as it slid down to the apex between my thighs. My hand came up to cover the narrow but angry red C-section scar marring my lower belly. I’d always found a way to hide it from Dante’s view so far. The doctor had said it would fade to white in time but it would never go away completely.
Dante stalked toward me and gently pulled my hand away, revealing my scar to him. “Don’t hide yourself from me.”
“I wasn’t sure if you’d be turned off by the sight of my scar.”
Dante laughed, a rough sound deep in his throat. He gripped my waist, eyes hungry and possessive. “You look like a goddess, Val. Your scar doesn’t make you any less desirable for me. Or do you find my scars repulsive? I have plenty of them.”